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Symbolic Interpretation of Story

The Symbolic Interpretation of Story, Chapter 19, page 254.

When I started working at Nordstrom, as a personal shopper, I was very excited about the prospect of excelling in such a large company. The opportunities seemed endless to me, as they told me they “promote from within.” I remember my first day of the two week training for the job. The Human Relations director stood at the front of the room and gave us story after story about the foundation of the company, its successes as a company and its successes for employees within the company. She painted a picture for the new employees in that room with both corporate and personal stories. The corporate stories included things about how the founders' sons all started out of the sales floor, just like any one of us. They all had to work their way up, so therefor we are all on common ground. She explained how the general manager of our store is hands on, always getting her “hands dirty” by cleaning, doing displays, painting and even selling at times. This gave us a sense that she loved her job, and that the values of the company include close-ties, hard-work, community, equality and a go-getter attitude. She also told us that the general manager did not get a college degree, in fact she started working at Nordstrom right after high-school. The message she was trying to send us through her story was very clear. She wanted us to see that we all have a chance at being the general manager one day, if we work hard enough. Her personal stories were about her summer internships with Nordstrom, and how after graduating from UC Davis she was offered a position as Assistant Manager of her department and then eventually manager of HR. With her personal story she wanted to be “seen within the organization” (254) as a smart woman who kept close connections in the company during her college education in order to get promoted after graduating. This was all fine and dandy information, and made Nordstrom sound like the best place on earth to work, but I knew better. I had to get the truth, the reality the real story of how things really work within the organization (254). This is where the Collegial stories came in handy. I knew that if I went down to my department and asked a few of my co-workers about their experiences at Nordstrom, I would find out what it is really like to be an employee in this company. The truth prevailed because after getting both positive and negative stories about the company, my own experience at Nordstrom aligned with those stories more so than anything else I had heard.


  1. I think you give a perfect example of the different intepretations of stories. I know how it can be in the retail world... I fell under the same "spell" if you will, when I started for MAC. You hear all the stories of glorious things about moving up to become a manager, go into artist training and development, or become a senior artist... Although any movement in any company requires work, after becoming a manager I realized that it's not what I wanted to do, based on my personal experiences I had there. It wasn't a bad experience, but just not for me. So I'm sure the positive and negative stories are all dependent on each individual and their expectations and desires.

  2. I liked your story and it's a great example of how each employee can have a completely different interpretation of the job at hand. Of course during your training the HR lady wanted to make it sound like you were going to have the best experience ever and that the company was an amazing company to work for. It was smart of you to ask around to find out what the job was really going to be like. Just because one person had an amazing experience, doesn't mean that everyone else felt that way too.